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With the Wild Card weekend in the rearview, it is time for the Divisional round of the NFL Playoffs. The top 2 seeds from each conference got their bye week and should be rested up. They will face the winners of the Wild Card. Each team that won during the Wild Card was the home team. This week, however, Green Bay, Houston, Pittsburgh, and Seattle will all be on the road. In the AFC #4 Houston will go up north to #1 New England and #3 Pittsburgh is off to #2 Kansas City. On the NFC side #4 Green Bay will face #1 Dallas and #3 Seattle will travel to #2 Atlanta. All of these games are rematches from earlier in the NFL season, which should make for some interesting games.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

To kick off the Divisional round is a great NFC matchup. The #3 Seattle Seahawks go down south to play the #2 Atlanta Falcons in what might be the most heated game of the weekend. These teams met in week 6 of the regular season in arguably one of the best games of the season. The Seahawks edged the Falcons with the score 26-24, but not without controversy. Richard Sherman had hands on Julio Jones that could have easily been called pass Image result for seahawks vs falconsinterference but was not. It should also be mentioned that this game was in Seattle where the Seahawks went 7-1 but on the road went 3-4-1. Either way, this game kicks off a great weekend but I see Atlanta getting by with a close win.

The late game on Saturday is up in Foxborough between the #4 Houston Texans and the #1 New England Patriots. This game is a rematch from week 3 but with one major difference. Tom Brady will be in the lineup this time and has been red hot this season. This is a baImage result for texans vs patriotsd scenario for Houston as they lost 27-0 earlier in the year to the Pats 3rd string QB. That fact, mixed with the extremely inconsistent play from all of Houston’s quarterbacks means the Texans are in trouble. One good thing for Houston is their defense and their pass rush, which may be their only saving grace. They can hope to pressure Brady but the Patriots will win by at least 14.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The first game on Sunday is set to take place between #3 Pittsburgh Steelers and the #2 Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. This has shaped up to be a very interesting matchup as Pittsburgh has all of their offensive weapons on the field. The key thing is that their defense is playing at the best they have all season. On the Chiefs side, they had the bye week to rest up. They also come in with one of the most balanced offenses and a defense that has been firing on all cylinders for the last half of the season. This will be a much differentImage result for steelers vs chiefs game than the week 4 blowout for two reasons. The Chiefs have gotten much better since their loss. This game is in KC as well where the Chiefs are a very good team at that. Another big concern for the Steelers is their quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger was injured in the wild card game and was seen in a walking boot. It has been reported that he is will play and it is only a sprain, but it may still have an effect come Sunday. I suspect this game will come down to a field goal, but both teams can win in this one.

The final Divisional game of the weekend might be the most exciting too. The red hot #4 Green Bay Packers are going to Jerry World to take on the #1 Dallas Cowboys.  This game has a lot of interest as the Cowboys have been the best team all season, but they are facing arguably the best quarterback in the league in Aaron Rodgers. The last time these teams met in week 6 the Cowboys went into Lambeau and won 30-16. One big difference between then and now is the emergence of some Green Bay defense. The Cowboys are a tough matchup for any team. This is because of Zeke Elliot and the way he can run the ball. I see this game being a shootout with a ton of points scored even without Jordy Nelson. I think the veteran puts the rookies in their place, 45-35 in favor of Green Bay. This pick could easily go for the Cowboys as well especially with the season they’ve had. The Boys have a lot of upsides and I expect to see them in the same place next season. Image result for packers vs cowboys

Half of our football enjoyment is now over after last night’s College Football Playoff National Championship, Water Cooler Talk has the reaction and will discuss who to watch out for at the start of the 2016 season. With Wild Card Playoff weekend behind us, we’ll look ahead to this weekends games and gives you the predictions you need to put some extra cheddar in your pockets. Sit back, relax, don’t think about all the snow you’ll have to shovel when you get home, and let Water Cooler Talk help you be the sports guru of the office this week.

CFP:

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The Alabama Crimson Tide are your 2015 National Champions, and what a championship it was as they fought and scrapped for 60 minutes with a very talented Clemson Tigers squad. With their 45-40 victory, the Crimson Tide have earned their 16th championship over their well documented and proud history. Head coach Nick Saban earned his fifth title (4 with Bama, 1 with LSU) to put him in a category with Bear Bryant as the only two coaches with 5 or more titles (Bryant won 6 with Bama).

The game took a dramatic turn in the 4th quarter with the scored knotted up at 24 when Nick Saban rolled the dice to keep his struggling defense off the field. Keeping DeShaun Watson and the Tigers offense off the field with this call may have been the clincher for Alabama as Clemson was able to score at will against the Alabama defense.

Senior QB Jake Coker didn’t have to impress much over the regular season, but he stepped up in a big way on the big stage. Against Michigan State two weeks ago, Coker had a career-high 286 yards passing while completing 83.3% of his passes. Last night, Coker again set a career-high with 335 yards on just 16/25 passing with 2 TDs. The young man who hails from the state of Alabama finishes off a career that was more tumultuous than glorious, but he made his dream come true by bringing his home state another national title.

Junior RB Derrick Henry most likely played his last collegiate game last night, and if that’s the case, what a way to bow out. 3 TDs on the ground along with 158 yards. On the season, Henry finishes with 2,219 rushing yards and 28 TDs and of course, a Heisman Trophy.

Clemson made a valiant effort this season to be the first team to finish 15-0. Had it not been for one DeShaun Watson INT and a gutsy onside kick call from Saban, we most likely would be talking about a historic season. I’ll assume now that DE Shaq Lawson will not be returning for his senior season as he’s projected to be a 1st-round talent, but that doesn’t mean Clemson won’t compete for another title next season or over the next few seasons to come. Clemson came into this season with a plethora of sophomores and freshman, so skies the limit for this team in 2016.

Let’s take a look at the crystal ball and predict who will be the top five teams to start the 2016 season:

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Ohio State
  4. Stanford
  5. Oklahoma

NFL:

NFL-logoAnd then there were eight. Regardless of how you feel about the Seahawks and Steelers advancing to this weekend, both squads will have to earn hard-fought victories if they hope to advance to the conference championship. Kansas City and Green Bay made their wins over the weekend look easy, but they each have tough tests this weekend with trips to Foxborough and Glendale respectively. Let’s take a look at the four matchups that await this weekend, shall we?

Kansas City at New England – The Chiefs defense has to be licking their chops while they await the New England offensive line. Kansas City is no stranger when it comes to sacking the QB, and Tom Brady has found himself on his backside more often than not over the last several weeks due to constant line changes due to injuries. The Patriots however will be healthy on offense for the first time in two months with the return of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. The Pats still have a defense that can get to the QB as well, which may spell trouble for Alex Smith and the running game if Jeremy Maclin can’t suit up. Bill Belichick just flat out doesn’t lose these games, and with two weeks of preparation, I think he’ll lead his squad to a pretty easy win. Patriots win this game to move on to the AFC Championship, 27-14.

Green Bay at Arizona – Do you remember what happened between these two squads Week 16? While I don’t think this game will be exactly like this one, I do think Arizona puts another whooping on the Packers. Green Bay’s offensive line is in turmoil right now, which gives the Cardinals hope in recording what could be another 9-sack night versus Green Bay. Arizona gets an easy win thanks to their stout defense, 30-13.

Seattle at Carolina – The Seahawks may very well be the luckiest team in the league, but they’ll need more than luck this week if they hope to advance. Carolina is riding a 15-win season and will look to get some offensive playmakers back for what should be a slugfest. After missing the regular season finale, Ted Ginn Jr. will help Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart in the running game, by threatening over-the-top routes throughout the contest. The Panthers defense will look to regain their form after struggling in 3 of the final 5 games when they allowed 30+ points to the Saints and Giants, and couldn’t stop Atlanta on third down in their only loss of the season. Carolina takes advantage of their home-field advantage and stifles Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense with a 24-14 win.

Pittsburgh at Denver – Who will start for the Broncos? Brock Osweiler or Peyton Manning? I still think Osweiler gives the Broncos a better chance to win, but it’ll be the defense that’ll win this game for the Broncos. Denver is too solid for Pittsburgh who may be without Antonio Brown and are already out with DeAngelo Williams. Big Ben has a sprained AC Joint, which will likely effect his passes downfield. If he’s unable to go, it’s all over for the Steelers before the game even starts. While I do think the Steelers won’t go down without a fight, I think Denver crushes their spirits early in this contest. The Broncos will move on to next week with a convincing 34-18 victory.

That’s all for this week’s edition. If you like what you see, be sure to follow me on Twitter. Have a great week everyone and enjoy the football action this weekend.

Water Cooler Talk wasn’t sure whether to solely go all-out crazy on the NFL this week, but thanks to certain events it’s got to happen. There’s a shake-up in the Heisman candidacy and of course in the College Playoff Rankings.  Oh, and did I mention some things regarding the NFL?  Water Cooler Talk has plenty for you to get caught up on from this past weekend and the week ahead so you can be the sports guru of the office.  As always, Water Cooler Talk highly encourages you to share your experiences of spreading your sports knowledge in the office, by contacting me on Twitter.

NFL:

NFL-logoLet’s backtrack to Friday, shall we? Photos were released by Deadspin showing Nicole Holder’s bruises from when Greg Hardy assaulted her last spring.  The ex-girlfriend of the Cowboys defensive end was a lot more roughed up than I think most people expected, including myself.  If you haven’t been able to see the photos, check them out here.

My problem with this, is that Greg Hardy is playing. The NFL has done what they could, but that doesn’t mean the Cowboys shouldn’t at least consider releasing Hardy.  Ray Rice has been sitting out of the NFL since the video of him knocking out his wife became public, because teams are smart enough not to touch him…including the Raiders.  I’m all for second chances, but Rice and Hardy, or anyone else who assaults a woman are one of the exceptions.

We’ve already seen Hardy have a spat with his teammates on the sidelines, which should be a red flag in itself. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants Hardy to sign for the long-term with his team and be a leader moving forward, but how can anyone follow the leader of a woman-beater?  Here’s the message I’m getting from the NFL:  We’ll punish you for everything except domestic violence.

Let’s move onto the field. Another unbeaten is unbeaten no more as the Denver Broncos were defeated by the sub-.500 Indianapolis Colts.  While the Broncos defense wasn’t able to carry the team to yet another victory, it was what happened towards the end of the game that really shocked me.  Aqib Talib eye-gouged TE Dwayne Allen that resulted in a personal foul, which ultimately led to the Colts win.  I had to do a double-check to make sure I wasn’t watching ‘The Waterboy’…”Captain Insano shows no mercy!”

The Bengals and the Patriots got by their week nine opponents without much difficulty. Obviously they’re the class of the AFC and no one is arguing that.

The Panthers are now 8-0 after defeating the Packers 37-29 on Sunday…a game in which myself and my fellow Panthers fans had another near cardiac arrest. Carolina now has a two-game lead in the NFC, but there is still doubt on whether the Panthers can close out the season because of the lack of offensive weapons.  I’ll say this, if Devin Funchess can build on what he did on Sunday, then they’ll be fine.  I worry about them closing out games as they nearly blew a double-digit 4th quarter lead for the second straight game.  Head coach Ron ‘Riverboat’ Rivera has been in this situation before as he was a member of the 1985 Chicago Bears team that started 12-0 before losing to the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.  How did they do after that?  Oh that’s right…they won the Super Bowl.

One more thing on the week nine action, and that’s what happened between the Vikings and the Rams. Teddy Bridgewater got knocked out on Sunday…literally…after taking a hit to the head from LaMarcus Joyner.  Everyone immediately screamed ‘dirty play’ when it initially happened except for me.  Joyner reacted before Bridgewater began to slide, and the angle he took was proper.  Bridgewater just slid late, and that’s no fault to Joyner.  Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was fuming about the play and even went as far as to hint Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams perpetrated the hit.  Ridiculous is the only word I say to that.  It was a bang-bang play, that’s what happens in football.  There will be no Bountygate II investigation.

Looking ahead to this week’s games, I’m eyeballing a few matchups. I have to start with TNF as the Bills take on the Jets, a game in which Rex Ryan returns to New York.  I’m more intrigued about the uniforms than the game itself because let’s be honest…Thursday football is hard to watch.  I’ll take the Jets to move to 6-3 with a 20-12 win.  Keep an eye on the uniforms and you’ll see why I say this game should be closer to Christmas than Thanksgiving.

I like the Vikings-Raiders game if Bridgewater can play. If he can it’ll be a good game, if he can’t then the Raiders will get an easy one.  With Bridgewater, I say Vikings win 24-20, if he doesn’t play then I’ll take the Raiders to win 27-9.

We’re supposed to get excited for New England and the New York Giants, but it’ll be an easy one for the Patriots as they’ll win 30-13.

Finally, we finish with SNF where the Cardinals travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks. Both teams are coming off their bye week, so it might be a little ugly.  The Cardinals are the better team, and they’ll win 21-13.

NCAAF:

1000px-NCAA_logo.svgOh Clemson, you didn’t disappoint. It was scary for a bit, but the Tigers ultimately prevailed over the Seminoles to clinch a spot in the ACC title game and hold onto their #1 ranking (or at least should still be #1).  What’s scary about this team, is that they have 40 freshman on their squad…40!  Clemson will be good for quite some time.

It wasn’t the usual game we’re used to seeing from Alabama and LSU. No last-minute drive to win the game or low scoring game, but still a good game nonetheless.  Bama solidifies their stance in the CFB Playoff Ranking, and they didn’t do it alone thanks to Arkansas beating Ole Miss.  Expect to see the Crimson Tide stomp a mud hole in the Gators in the SEC Championship game.

Because TCU and LSU lost this past weekend, we have to wonder about the Heisman balloting. TCU QB Trevone Boykin and LSU RB Leonard Fournette were running away from the field, but both were stymied on Saturday.  Both of these players need their teams to either win out or lose a close game to a good team to distance themselves from the rest of the pack.  I got in an argument on Saturday night with a friend over me snubbing Florida State RB Talvin Cook from the race.  My argument is this…the voters won’t vote for a player with a team that has 3+ losses (I think FSU loses to Florida) and isn’t contending in a major bowl.  That’s why TCU and LSU need to finish strong for Boykin and Fournette to stay in the running.

As for the CFB Playoff Rankings that will be released tonight, this is my top four this week: 1) Clemson 2) Alabama 3) Ohio State 4) Oklahoma State.  Yes…I know Baylor will be a popular snub, but the OK State victory over TCU was more impressive than Baylor’s seven-point defeat of Kansas State.  And yes, Notre Dame could be in that 4th spot as well, but I’ll keep them at #6 behind Baylor because of the crooked number.  I will admit this, OK State jumping to #4 might be a stretch considering they were #14 last week, but if they vote correctly then this shouldn’t be a shock.

For the games this weekend, there are a few that stand out:

Let’s begin with Alabama (8-1) at Mississippi State (7-2).  I’ve already said Alabama reaches the SEC title game, which means they have to win-out in the conference.  So I’m obviously taking the Crimson Tide to win in a hostile environment, 31-17.

Here’s one in which no love is given…Memphis (8-1) at Houston (9-0).  These teams are a lot better than people think, because they just see what conference they play in and give no credit.  This is a battle for American Athletic Conference (AAC) supremacy.  If the current system was an eight-team playoff rather than four, Memphis would be in the discussion.  The Tigers come away with a win this weekend, with a score of 37-31.

Finally, we have Oklahoma (8-1) at Baylor (8-0).  If Texas hadn’t defeated Oklahoma, the Big 12 would be even more jumbled to see who will come out on top.  The Sooners are still in it, but they absolutely need to win this game.  Baylor is screaming “snub” in the CFB Playoff Ranking…but not after this week.  Oklahoma wins easily, 35-22.